Tonight’s Game: The Rochester Americans look to snap a two-game skid tonight when they host the North Division rival Hamilton Bulldogs in the first leg of a home-and-home series on Hall of Fame Night at The Blue Cross Arena. The 7:05 p.m. contest will be the fourth of eight scheduled meetings between the two teams this season and will be broadcast live on Sports 1280 WHTK.
AMERKS FAN GUIDE
AUDIO: JOHN WROBLEWSKI WITH DON STEVENS
2013-14 AHL STANDINGS 2013-14 NHL STANDINGS
2013-14 ROCHESTER STATS 2013-14 BUFFALO STATS
2013-14 HAMILTON STATS 2013-14 MONTREAL STATS
FRIDAY'S WEATHER FORECAST
Head-to-Head: The Amerks have maintained much of the upper-hand against Hamilton this season, claiming three of the first four get-togethers and picking up seven of a possible eight points after a 6-3 win in the teams’ most recent encounter back on Nov. 27 in Rochester. Kevin Porter (2+1) and Phil Varone (0+3) each notched three points and Rasmus Ristolainen provided a pair of goals to help the Amerks improve to 3-0-0-1 against the Bulldogs, a mark that also features a perfect 2-0-0-0 record at home. Rochester is also 88-70-10 all-time against Hamilton.
Amerks Notes: Rochester (14-13-3-3, 34 points) enters the contest on the heels of a 3-1 loss to the Binghamton Senators Wednesday night at The Blue Cross Arena. Varone’s seventh goal of the season spotted the Amerks to a 1-0 lead, but three straight goals by the B-Sens would hand Rochester its second loss in three games since the turn of the New Year. Varone has collected at least one point in each of his last three games since the team returned home from Switzerland and is now a mere four goals away from matching his career-high mark of 11 goals, a feat he’s reached in each of his last two seasons in Rochester. Despite its recent struggles on the road, Rochester’s success this season can certainly be attributed to its play at home, where the Amerks have collected points in 13 of their last 16 games, including seven of their last eight, and are fresh off a season-long six-game home winning streak. Rochester currently boasts the fourth-best record at home this season with a mark of 10-4-1-2 through its first 17 home matchups of the season. With 13 points (2+11) over his last 15 games, Varone is playing at nearly a point-per-game pace, recording 30 points (7+23), while being one of just three Amerks to appear in all 33 games thus far this season. Varone, who’s recorded at least one point in 22 of his first 33 games this season, is currently tied for fifth in the AHL with a team-high 23 assists, 12 of which have come on the power-play. Varone’s 30 points also tie him for 12th in scoring among the AHL’s top point-getters. Luke Adam, meanwhile, continues to lead the Amerks with a team-best 14 goals and ranks second with 21 points. Adam’s impressive start to the 2013-14 season has the fourth-year pro tied for seventh in the league in goals, in addition to ranking third in the AHL with eight power-play tallies and showing a league-best four game-winning markers. The Amerks remain four points back of Hamilton in the North Division standings, but with two games in hand.
Hamilton Notes: Hamilton (17-14-0-4, 38 points), playing its last of a four-game road swing tonight, comes into the matchup riding an AHL-best five-game winning streak and is fresh off a two-game sweep of the Abbotsford Heat in Western Canada. The Bulldogs used 2-1 and 3-1 victories over the Heat, respectively, to open the New Year and extend their road winning streak to a season-high four games. Former Calder Cup champion goaltender Dustin Tokarski backstopped both wins, posting an impressive 0.99 goals-against average and a .964 save percentage while allowing only two goals in 120 minutes between the pipes. Tokarski, whose started four of the last five games for the Bulldogs, currently ranks fifth in the AHL in both goals-against average (2.19) and save percentage (.926), allowing two goals or fewer in 17 of his 24 appearances. He is also tied for ninth among AHL goaltenders in wins (13), while ranking seventh in saves (623) and seventh in minutes played (1,373).The Bulldogs come to the Flower City fueled by veteran forward Martin St. Pierre, who paces the team with 18 assists and 25 points in 32 games this season. The Hamilton captain enters play tonight with just one goal in his last nine games after notching 19 points (4+15) through his first 15 games of the 2013-14 season.
Up Next: The Amerks and Bulldogs return to action on Saturday, Jan. 11 as the home-and-home series shifts north of the border for a divisional showdown at Copps Coliseum in Southern Ontario. The 7:00 p.m. matchup will be the fifth of eight meetings this season and will be carried live in Rochester on Sports 1280 WHTK.
AMERKS QUICK HITS
- Varone paces the Amerks with 23 assists and 30 points, placing him tied for fifth and 12th in the AHL, respectively. The third-year pro is also fourth in the league with 12 power-play helpers, one of which came in last Friday’s 5-2 win over Utica.
- Adam is currently tied for seventh in the league with 14 goals, including a league-best four game-winning markers, and ranks third with eight power-play tallies. Adam, whose impressive start to the season already earned a nine-game stint in the NHL last month, has found the back of the net in 11 of his first 19 games this season, including five straight outings between Oct. 18 and Nov. 1, which still stands as the longest stretch in the AHL.
- The Amerks currently own one of the league’s elite offensive pairings in Varone and Adam. Through 33 games this season, the duo has combined for 10 multi-point outings between the two of them. Even more impressively is that the pair has recorded at least one point in the same game 12 times already since the puck dropped in October, including five straight between Oct. 18 and Nov. 1, when they totaled 17 points on seven goals and 10 assists. Rochester is 6-4-1-1 when Varone and Adam register a point in the same game.
- Second-year forward Frederick Roy is presently 18th in the AHL with 83 penalty minutes.
- With six points (1+5) over his last nine games, a stretch that also featured a season-long four-game point streak from Dec. 4 to Dec. 11, rookie defenseman Chad Ruhwedel leads all Rochester blueliners with 15 points on four goals and 11 assists. His assist in last Friday’s win over Utica ties him for fifth on the team in scoring with fellow defenseman Brayden McNabb, who remains on NHL recall with the parent Buffalo Sabres.
- Mike Zigomanis, who has been plus-one or better in two of his last five games, shows a team-best plus-eight on-ice rating.
- Goaltender Matt Hackett, who’s started four straight and five of the last six games, enters the contest boasting a 9-11-2 record with a 2.93 goals-against average and a .904 save percentage. He’s also sixth among AHL netminders in saves (624) and eighth in minutes played (1351).
- This year’s edition of the Amerks features two players with lineage to former NHL goaltenders. Roy is the youngest son of Colorado Avalanche head coach and two-time Stanley Cup winner Patrick Roy while Hackett is the nephew of former Jack A. Butterfield Trophy winner Jeff Hackett, whose Springfield Indians defeated Rochester four games to two win the 1990 Calder Cup.
RISTO’S GOLDEN GOAL FOR FINLAND: The 2014 World Junior Championships in Malmo, Sweden came to a close in heroic fashion on Sunday afternoon with Amerks defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen scoring the overtime game-winner to give Team Finland a 3-2 win over host Sweden in the gold medal game. Ristolainen, a first-round pick of the Buffalo Sabres in last year’s draft, finished the tournament with three goals in five games to help Finland to its third gold medal finish (first since 1998) and first medal since the 2006 event.
A LOOK BACK AT THE SPENGLER CUP: The Amerks were granted a 12-day hiatus from their American Hockey League schedule to take the international stage and compete in the Spengler Cup, the world’s oldest and most prestigious invitational ice hockey tournament held annually in Davos, Switzerland from Dec. 26-31. The tournament marked the return to Switzerland for the Amerks, who last took part in the event in 1996 and remain the only North American league team to ever participate in the 90-year history of the Spengler Cup. Led by four-point efforts from both Luke Adam (2+2) and Phil Varone (1+3), Rochester finished last in the six-team tournament after dropping all three of its matchups, including one to eventual champion Geneve-Servette during the preliminary round.
ROSTER SHAKE-UP: Rochester’s roster has seen a flurry of changes since the departure of Amerks captain Matt Ellis, whose heroics at the Frozen Frontier quickly prompted a summons from Buffalo. Since then, Rochester has lost six of its top 10 scorers to either recall (Brayden McNabb, Kevin Porter, Matt Ellis and Johan Larsson), or injury (veteran forwards Mike Zigomanis and Jamie Tardif). In the wake of their depleted lineup, the Amerks have added reinforcements in the form of forwards Brayden Irwin and Brandon MacLean, who were each signed to Professional Tryouts, and the return of forward Jonathan Parker, who was reassigned to Rochester after posting 20 points (8+12) in 21 games for the ECHL’s Colorado Eagles this season. With the recent influx of talent, however, the Amerks now have three first-round draft picks in their lineup, including Ristolainen (8th overall in 2013), Joel Armia (16th overall, 2011) and Colton Gillies (16th overall, 2007).
ALL-STAR THREE-PEAT FOR McNABB: The American Hockey League announced Thursday that Amerks defenseman Brayden McNabb has been named to the AHL All-Star roster for the 2014 AHL All-Star Classic presented by Assante Wealth Management. The AHL All-Star Team will be facing off against Färjestad BK of the Swedish Hockey League in the two-day event, which will include the AHL All-Star Skills Competition on Feb. 11 and the AHL All-Star Game on Feb. 12 at Mile One Centre in St. John’s, Newfoundland. McNabb, who is currently on NHL recall with the Buffalo Sabres, has appeared in 19 games for the Amerks this season and is tied for the team lead in scoring among Rochester defensemen with 15 points (3+12) and ranks second overall on the team with 12 assists. He has also played in six games for the Sabres this season. This marks the third straight AHL All-Star selection for McNabb, who recorded an assist in last year’s contest while also winning the Hardest Shot event at the Skills Competition with a blast clocked at 101.8 MPH. In 2011-12, he was named to the roster as a rookie but was unable to play due to a recall to the Sabres. McNabb becomes the first Amerk to make consecutive AHL All-Star Game appearances since Hall of Famer Mike Hurlbut, who represented Rochester at both the 2000 and 2001 events.
THE BEST OFFENSE IS A GOOD DEFENSE: Much of Rochester’s recent success can be attributed to the increase in offensive contributions from its defensemen. Over the last 11 games, Amerks blueliners have recorded 16 points (4+12), including a combined five points (1+4) in last Friday’s win over Utica. The Amerks are 7-3-3-1 so far this season when a defenseman scores a goal.
SPECIAL TEAMS BREAKDOWN: After failing to convert in six straight games, Rochester’s power-play has improved since the turn of the New Year, scoring once on six man-advantage opportunities in its return to AHL action on Jan. 3. The Amerks, who have scored at least one power-play goal in 18 of their first 33 games this season, currently have the 10th-best power-play in the league with a 19.0% overall success rate. Rochester also has the ninth-best unit on the road (19.4%) and the 15th-most productive power-play at home (18.7%).
BY THE NUMBERS: The Amerks are 14-3-2-2 (32 points) this season against North Division rivals, but show an 0-10-1-1 (2 points) mark versus non-divisional foes. The Amerks have scored the first goal in 21 of the first 33 games this season and show an 11-7-1-2 record when doing so, including an 8-2-1-1 mark at home. Rochester is also 10-0-0-1 when leading after two periods, a streak that also shows an unblemished 7-0-0-0 mark at home.
HOME ICE ADVANTAGE: With points in 13 of their last 16 home games, and the winners of six of their last eight in the friendly confines of The Blue Cross Arena, the Amerks currently have the fourth-best home record in the AHL with a mark of 10-4-1-2 (23 points) through their first 17 home matchups of the season.
TOO CLOSE FOR COMFORT: The Amerks have seen five of their last eight games decided by one goal dating back to a historic 5-4 shootout win over the Lake Erie Monsters at the Frozen Frontier on Dec. 13. This season, 11 of Rochester’s 33 games have been determined by a single goal, and of those 11 one-goal decisions, eight have been determined in overtime or via the shootout for a 2-0-3-3 record.
WHO’S HOT: Varone carries a three-game point streak into tonight’s game after providing the lone goal in Wednesday’s 3-1 loss to Binghamton… Varone has also recorded four points (1+3) through his last six appearances and his season also remains the longest in the AHL to date… The same game, however, also saw the end of rookie forward Dan Catenacci’s three-game assist streak, one that began with an assist in Lake Erie on Dec. 21 before the team departed for Switzerland… With an assist on Varone’s goal on Wednesday, Adam shows eight points (5+3) over his last seven games, a stretch that began with back-to-back two-goal outings in mid-November… Alex Hutchings scored his first two goals of the season with a pair of tallies in Rochester’s 5-2 win over Utica on Friday night… Joel Armia has notched three points (1+2) in as many games, including goals in back-to-back games for the first time this season.
MILESTONE WATCH: Fresh off his two-goal outing against Utica on Friday, Hutchings is a mere two points shy of the century mark for his pro career… Veteran forward Jamie Tardif needs just another five games to join the 500 club, while Varone is 13 assists shy of 100 for his pro career… Although presently on recall with the Sabres, Amerks captain Matt Ellis needs seven goals to reach the 100-mark for his AHL career… Defenseman Brayden McNabb, also on recall with Buffalo, is 11 points away from the 100-point mark for his career.
HALL OF FAME NIGHT
Prior to tonight's game, the Amerks will induct he Rochester Americans will induct former team captain Mike Hurlbut into the Amerks Hall as part of Seneca Casinos Legends Night. Hurlbut will become the 55th member of the prestigious club to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame.
Hurlbut will be honored during an on-ice ceremony prior to the start of the game and will also be available to sign autographs for fans in the main concourse during the first intermission. A special Hall of Fame Night ticket offer, featuring “best-available” seats for just $15 apiece, is available at www.amerks.com/HOF or at The Blue Cross Arena Box Office.
Hurlbut is the longest-tenured captain in the storied history of the Amerks, having worn the “C” during all five of his seasons in Rochester (1997-98 to 2001-02) while leading the team to multiple appearances in the Calder Cup Finals. The defenseman appeared in 288 games with the Amerks and recorded 167 points on 44 goals and 123 assists to rank tied for fifth all-time in points and 11th in games played among Rochester defensemen. In four of his five seasons with the Amerks, Hurlbut either held or shared the team lead in points by a blueliner.
A native of Massena, New York, Hurlbut led the Amerks to successful playoff runs as the team appeared in back-to-back Calder Cup Finals in 1999 and 2000. In those two postseasons, Hurlbut appeared in a total of 40 games and collected 20 points on nine goals and 11 assists. He appeared in 51 career playoff contests during his Amerks tenure, ranking eighth all-time and third among defensemen in franchise history. He also represented the Amerks at two AHL All-Star Games and served as captain for the Planet USA team in 2001.
Zweigle's Family Four-Pack - The Amerks are offering Zweigle’s Family Four Packs for all Friday night Amerks home games at The Blue Cross Arena. For just $56, families can receive four tickets to a Friday night home game at The Blue Cross Arena, four hot dogs and four sodas (a savings of $62 off the regular prices). Fans that purchase a Zweigle’s Family Four Pack can also purchase additional tickets beyond the Family Four Pack for $14 apiece that will also include a hot dog and soda.
Score with Subway! – With an Amerks victory during any regular season home game during the 2013-14 season, fans can log onto amerks.com to download a coupon good for one free regular six-inch sub with the purchase of a 30 oz drink. If the Amerks do not happen to win, fans still score with Subway by logging onto amerks.com to download a coupon for two free cookies the following day at participating Subway restaurants in the Rochester area. Restrictions apply. The coupons are only good the day after each Amerks home game at participating Subway restaurants in the greater Rochester area.
Taco Bell In-Store – Fans can receive a coupon/voucher for a $15 best available ticket to Friday night Amerks home games during the 2013-14 season ($9 off box office price). Turn in the coupon at the box office in order to purchase the discounted tickets or enter in the promo code (TACO) on ticketmaster.com to redeem the offer. Fans must turn in Taco Bell coupon at The Blue Cross Arena Box Office or enter the promo code on ticketmaster.com to purchase the discounted tickets.
Taco Bell “We Win, You Win” – For each home game the Amerks win, fans will be able to redeem their ticket stub at a participating Taco Bell location the following day to receive a free seasoned beef taco.
Moe’s Hot Player of the Game – At each home game, three Amerks players will be selected as the “hot players” of the game. If any of the three Amerks players scores a goal, fans will be able to redeem a coupon in the Amerks Stars & Stripes Roster Card (limited amount available upon entry) for 50% off any entrée at participating Moe’s locations the following day. If any of the three Amerks players scores a hat trick, fans will also be able to redeem a coupon in the Amerks Stars & Stripes Roster Card for an enhanced offer (free burrito) at participating Moe’s locations the following day. Tonight's Moe's Hot Players are Luke Adam, Colton Gillies and Nick Tuzzolino.
Buckmans Car Wash – Amerks home game ticket stubs will be good at all Buckmans Car Wash locations for discounted car wash after all home games at all Buckmans Car Wash locations in the area.
Eats and Seats - The Amerks and The Distillery have teamed up again for the 2013-14 season to give our fans delicious food and the opportunity to enjoy the best hockey the Rochester area has to offer with the Amerks! The Distillery “Eats & Seats” package costs $22.00 and includes one 'best-available' ticket and one $10 Distillery Gift Card. The certificates can be used at The Distillery's four locations: 1142 Mt Hope Ave. (Rochester), 3010 Winton Road South (Brighton), 300 Paddy Creek Circle (Greece) and 10 Square Drive (Victor).
Amerks Happy Hour – Prior to every Friday night home game this season, there will be an Amerks Happy Hour from 6:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. in the Upper Atrium Bar featuring live music and $2 Molson and Coors Light drafts for fans age 21 and over.